“How can I create a future I won’t live to see?” asked the Minister
“By providing us the ability to create it for ourselves,” the youth replied.
India is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. One out of every five people in India is between the ages of 18-25 years. This provides India with a unique demographic advantage and a huge portion of the world’s young working population. The world today is more fast-paced and uncertain than ever before. Thus, this young population is both our most valuable asset and also our biggest challenge.
Be it Jawaharlal Nehru or Swami Vivekananda, most stalwarts of Indian History has entered their respective fields in their youth and went on to make a significant impact. But today, in the race for economic development, we must not forget to address the dynamic challenges faced by the youth. Every day, these youth face problems such as identity crisis, unemployment, unused skills, and social barriers, which are not unique to their age-group but are also a determinant of India’s future.
The Need to Mobilise Indian Youth
India is currently experiencing an annual growth rate of 6.6%. This is one of the highest in the world. It means that the job markets and the skill requirement in India are changing and it is changing very fast. Machines may replace the jobs which exist today in the future, and more jobs requiring critical thinking, innovation, and problem-solving are emerging.
On the population front, India is approaching an era of benefiting from a “demographic dividend.” This means that by 2030, the average age of an Indian will be just 29 years as compared to 37 years for the Chinese and 48 for Japan. This provides India with an essential human capital, which is ready to be India’s capital in investment.
Thus, India can only utilize this advantage if both these factors work in coordination with each other. We must use our current resources to stake for the future. The budding population of India can contribute and sustain current growth levels only if they are prepared to adapt to the present and future changes in the job market and the socio-economic situations in India. Hence, it is high time we look into the needs and requirements of our youth and help them to become the face of our future.
What does Young India want?
There is no doubt that education is the key to development in today’s world. The education system in India is often not accessible. The quality of higher education is not up to the current standards. A study recently reported that 84% of the current youth require a post-graduation degree to land their dream job.
Further, an encouraging number of youth are also looking at entrepreneurship. Thus, not only must the Indian education system be made affordable and accessible, but it also must improve in its quality and teach skills which are in demand. A good step towards this was seen in the importance given to liberal arts education in the New Education Policy Draft released by the government earlier this year.
Crucial Career Choices
Indian youth are, in this age of technology, presented with a variety of choices for their careers. Most youth face problems such as information asymmetry, realistic goal setting, and lack of opportunity to explore their line of interest. Rural and Urban areas have seen a difference in exposure, thus making it difficult to create a level playing field and promote inclusive growth.
Therefore, the government, NGOs, and communities should provide opportunities and raise awareness of career counseling and guidance. A great idea will be to host sessions with those pursuing or well-established in certain fields and inviting youth to participate and ask questions. This will allow them to understand the various options present and express themselves freely.
One of the major problems faced by the Indian Economy today is Jobless growth. Non-creation of jobs leads to both unemployment and underemployment. If India fails to create jobs, invite industries, and expand its production base, it will not be able to capitalize on the demographic dividend.
Further, the non-availability of jobs may lead frustrated educated youth into the wrong path of crime. Therefore, Indian youth need job opportunities that compliment their skills and can survive in the changing job market structure. The rise of gig economy jobs and the increasing number of youth who engage in it must be acknowledged, and such jobs must be promoted at a larger level.
Breaking the Barriers
Indian youth face various socio-cultural barriers in achieving their full potential. Women in India are still looked down upon if they take up challenging career paths. Families influence and coerce their decisions on youth, which leads to misunderstandings between them. 34% of youth in a survey reported that personal bias, discrimination, marital relations, gender, age, and family background act as barriers when making career choices. The world is undergoing rapid changes. If we want our youth to keep up with these changes, we as a society must grow out of these mindsets and encourage them in their endeavors.
Power in Politics
Youth are the most under-represented section of society in politics. There is a daunting lack of youth participation and genuine representatives in the parliament. This is mainly because of corruption and the insensitivity of political parties towards the voice of youth. Nepotism is yet another issue plaguing the system. Recent trends have also shown dismissal numbers of youth voting.
The youth participation at any level in law-making is close to absent. This has led to a two-fold problem. One, the current law-makers do not care about the unique problems faced by the youth and two, there is no one to raise their voice for these issues. Youth in India thus, need their voices to be both encouraged, heard, and accepted so that they can make their mark in the political system as well.
A Supportive Society
The youth want to be accepted into society. They want their opinions not to be deemed as unworthy or irrelevant. They need a space where their ideas and contributions are accepted. They want to discover their talents and strengths. They need a platform to express their inner truths and be vulnerable.
Most importantly, they want to make a tangible difference. Thus, youth need a platform like social media, where they can meet both like-minded and diverse people. Such a platform can help them mobilize their ideas and bring their problems to the mainstream. Youth organizations and societies can play an important role in this regard.
Finally, we must remember that the Indian youth are competing with youth from across the world for jobs, opportunities, and representation. Thus, they need infrastructure and facilities which do not put them at a disadvantage. Sports stars like PV Sindhu have shown that the youth can make the country proud on an international level. Hence, the government must not hesitate to spend on creating a meaningful role for the youth.
Engaging Young India
Youth Engagement is one of the most pressing issues in our country. Youth are the building blocks to our future. It is important to find ways in which we can bring in them to mainstream society. Further, they need to realize their responsibility and stand up for their fellows. Various Youth-Engagement strategies are practiced across the world. The major areas include governance, leadership, social issues, and service organization. These sectors could benefit greatly from the novel insight, creativity, and technical knowledge of the youth.
Youth councils are a great way to begin involving the youth in the process of lawmaking. Organizations can encourage youth advocacy in social issues to ensure their voices are heard. Youth communities where they can discuss common problems and create a safe space to express their views are also a great start. NGOs have already begun encouraging youth participation in helping their fight against social evils.
In spite of all this, the Private sector and social media will be the two game-changers in this regard. The private sector can help bridge the gap between unemployment and a lack of skilled workers through demand-driven training initiatives.
Securing a job will open youth to multiple new arenas and help them in involving themselves in various opportunities. Social Media can be yet another tool for mobilization and bridging the information asymmetry. 87% of Indians today have internet access, a large number of who are youth. Social media is the instrument of social change and youth engagement today.
But youth engagement in India faces further barriers in the form of the social, geographical, and cultural divide. An all-inclusive way to achieve youth engagement will require a combination of governmental and community-based efforts and serious thought about the advantages of the same with the help of social media and through the reach of the private sector.
Swami Vivekananda’s birthday 12th January is celebrated as Yuwa Diwas or National Youth Day across the country. We need to use such opportunities to understand the requirement of today’s energetic, dynamic, and ambitious youth. Further, we need a vision and a mission to work towards youth engagement.
Assessing past records and setting future goals will be a good step. India must act fast, for it has a lot at stake if it fails to capitalize on this advantage of a huge young population. As it is said, the youth are a country’s arrows into the future. They must be well prepared to face the future, or they will fall flat.